Veterans Affairs Advocate Says Wehrmacht Needs Overhaul

It was customary for Australian Defense Force (ADF) soldiers to “break” their standard combat boots.

“There weren’t many people who actually had to carry packs and gear long distances and didn’t have to pound in those boots to keep their feet from hurting,” said a former Special Forces operative and now…veteran. Counsel.

“We were literally getting the boots, dipping them in the tub, and hammering them,” he told The Epoch Times, adding that it took five years before “Boot Review” finally launched.

Russell said this seemingly small problem was an insight into the long-standing and inherent problem of the Australian military, which now spills over into a massive multi-billion dollar project.

A well-known delay in the country’s submarine program is the recent move by the Labor government to initiate a Defense Strategy Review, just two years after the previous Free Nationals government announced its 2020 Defense Strategy Update. It was one of the reasons (among other things) behind the decision.

“The 2020 Defense Strategy Update identifies changes in Australia’s strategic environment that are accelerating more rapidly than predicted by the 2012 Force Posture Review,” current Defense Minister Richard Marls said in a statement. rice field. “This requires an immediate analysis of where and how defense assets and personnel are best deployed to protect Australia and its national interests.”

Epoch Times photo
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles and Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi (not pictured) attend a joint press conference held at the Ministry of Defense in Tokyo on June 15, 2022. (Shuji Kajiyama/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

The Strategic Review will be chaired by former Labor and Defense Minister Stephen Smith and former Defense Secretary Angus Houston.

But veterans like Russell are skeptical of the need for a government review.

“Why recall a former minister and former secretary of defense to review the ADF when we have a current defense secretary? [Marles]the current secretary of defense who earns about $1 million a year [Greg Moriarty]and the current Secretary of Defense [Angus Campbell]? ” He said.

“The biggest thing that needs an immediate overhaul is the defense industry portfolio and how we design, develop, procure and deliver major projects and assets.”

Keeping defense portfolios away from job creation

Years of peace and the absence of any major threats on Australia’s doorstep have encouraged political leaders to use their portfolios as leverage for economic growth, fostering a leisurely approach to defense spending. rice field.

The issue has recently come to the fore with the multi-billion dollar acquisition of French Attack-class submarines and Hunter-class frigates, with costly delays dominating the news cycle.

A major factor was the refusal to purchase existing (off-the-shelf) ship designs from overseas partners, instead opting for completely new custom designs that would require extensive construction and equipment. In the case of submarines, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott (2013-2015) wanted to buy Soryu-class ships from Japan, but Abbott was sacked and Malcolm Turnbull replaced him. So this plan has changed.

Despite the obvious drawbacks of building a new ship from scratch, the proposal was a huge success at the time, especially in Adelaide, Australia’s defense hub, as it would provide hundreds or even thousands of jobs for local manufacturers. attractive to the government. The voters of former Defense Secretary Christopher Pine, who endorsed the Attack and Hunter classes, were in Adelaide.

Epoch Times photo
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and French President Emmanuel Macron with Australian ministers aboard Collins-class submarine HMAS Waller at Garden Island, Sydney, May 2, 2018. (AAP/Brendan Esposito/via Reuters)

However, given Beijing’s increasing attacks in the Indo-Pacific region, it soon became clear that the commissioning timeframe for these ships (around the 2030s) was not feasible.

In 2021, the attack class will be finally canceled by former Prime Minister Scott Morrison in favor of US and UK nuclear submarines under the AUKUS agreement.

Labor and Defense Minister Marrez, meanwhile, indicated that the defense portfolio is shifting from job creation to actual national security activities.

“Capabilities and strategic imperatives should drive decision-making,” he said. sydney morning herald August 8th. And there must be a clear idea of ​​it. The industry will follow suit. “

Multiple coats of paint are not enough

Lincoln Parker, chairman of the Liberal Party’s Defense and National Security Branch, said the timing of the review was critical given Beijing’s continued gray zone tactics and political coercion in the South Pacific region. Stated.

“We must act urgently to protect ourselves and deal with this growing threat, or we will be surrounded and cut off,” he told the Epoch Times. Told.

“However, the appointment of former Labor Minister Stephen Smith at the Department of Defense is worrying. . Can he make tough decisions without compromise?” he said.

These difficult decisions include an ADF focus overhaul.

Over the last few decades, the armed forces have been primarily engaged in the Middle East, which includes fighting in deserts and moving across vast open plains.

But with Beijing’s rise, questions have been raised as to whether the ADF is ready for major engagements in maritime conditions.

“Many commentators have called for the ADF to be built along the same lines as the U.S. Marine Corps, especially the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). It makes no sense to spend dollars,” he said, referring to recent acquisitions under the previous administration.

“This funding could be better spent on features like long-range missiles, armed drones and MEFs. We also need options, the B-2 bomber or the new B-21 would be good choices.”

Greater structural problems and corruption remain

Russell believes a reorientation toward national security will require significant reform of how the Pentagon currently operates if it could face challenges in the immediate region.

“When I was there, the former secretary of war came out, and all of a sudden he was working for a company that supplied the military with all new boots,” he said. It’s happening, you can draw the line from senior positions within the defense force for people involved in large projects, and then they go out into the defense industry and find great soft-landing jobs.

“There is top-level corruption across the country and across the defense industry.

“I spoke to contractors and they said the easiest way to win a defense contract is to submit the lowest bid, and once you win, delay bidding and keep raising prices. increase.”

Parker said it required a “complete culture change and mindset adjustment.”

“The Department of Defense is riddled with bureaucracy, bureaucracy, procedures, and a tremendous aversion to risk in all its forms. And what about innovation?” he said.

“The answer is no. This is why Australia’s defenses are among the worst in the world.”

The Epoch Times requested a response from the Department of Defense, but was unable to receive it in time for publication.

Epoch Times photo
HMAS Brisbane will sail alongside HMAS Parramatta on sea approach off Queensland during Exercise Talisman Saber 2021. (Courtesy: Australian Department of Defense)

Minister’s revolving door must be stopped

Russell said the lack of continuity among portfolio-holding ministers is also a major hurdle to tackle.

“The defense minister is seen as the third person in charge after the foreign minister and is literally seen as a stepping stone for politicians rather than finding the best person for the job,” he said.

Ahead of the May election, the veteran affairs advocate spent two years with then-shadow defense ministers and veteran affairs ministers Brendan O’Connor and Shane Newman. O’Connor even engaged Peter Dutton, who was Defense Minister at the time, in a formal debate at his club at the National Press on National Security and China.

However, due to Labor’s victory in the election and subsequent horse trading in the portfolio, both men missed out on positions and two other MPs were slotted in instead.

“[The new veteran affairs minister] There has been no insight into the work my predecessor, his department, and the department chief and I have done over the past 18 months on matters such as how to remove the backlog of veterans’ compensation claims and other initiatives. I did,” said Russell.

“It’s all about celebrating new positions, moving, all shaking hands. With the change of government, it will take six to 12 months for them to sort themselves out.”

In response, current Veterans Affairs Minister Matt Keogh said the government had “no illusions” about its upcoming mission to help the country’s 581,000 current and former military personnel.

“We know the challenges ahead are enormous, but we are determined to ensure that veterans and their families have the services and support they not only need but deserve,” he said to The Epoch Times. “I will try to be as accessible as possible and make sure I hear directly from the front lines. I have already met with many stakeholders across the country.”

The Minister is aware of the current backlog of veterans compensation claims (37,000) and the Labor Government will deploy an additional 500 staff (at a cost of $226.3 million) to strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs. said to hire

“In the meantime, this government is acutely aware of the national tragedy of defense and veteran suicides,” he said. “Over four years, he will invest $24 million to ensure that the skills and experience of veterans are valued and valued by the wider community.”

Daniel Y. Teng


Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. His focus is on national politics such as federal politics, the COVID-19 response and Australia-China relations. Any tips? Please contact [email protected]